Deb Hopper is an occupational therapist with more than 25 years of clinical experience, based in Forster, NSW. She is also the founder of LifeSkills4Kids where she combines clinical work with training other OTs, parents and educators to understand kids’ behaviour and scale their businesses. Yahoo Finance caught up with Deb to hear how she grew her business to $249k last financial year.
What does your business do?
DH: I'm an occupational therapist by trade and I work in paediatrics, so I help mainly kids with autism, ADHD or developmental delay to develop skills to become the best they can be. So that's why I've been expanding - especially the last five or six years - to supporting other occupational therapists right across Australia through different courses I run.
I've got a mastermind that just launched this year, called the OT Influencer Mastermind, to help therapists set up their own alternative income streams as well as doing their face-to-face practice. I do clinical mentoring for occupational therapists around Australia via Zoom.
Next year, we're about to launch a parent's allied health system membership for professional support. So, lots of different things, and I’m excited about being able to maintain my clinical caseload for two days a week as well as doing the expansion online.
How did you start your business?
DH: I started when my son was a baby. I had a little bit of spare time when he was asleep, so I was doing a little bit of local private work and this was 16 years ago. So I found this therapy resource on CD and no one else sold it in Australia and that was the start of my online work.
I’d ship in around 20 CDs at a time and I had a website. I started to share it with other therapists and, within a few years, I had 50 products on my website. My dream was to always move towards the education and clinical support of OTs. So, I sold products for a while and now I've moved more to providing education, clinical support, and reduced the products for sale as well as keeping the one-to-one clinical work with kids on the floor, locally.
What have been some of the biggest highlights in business?
DH: I’ve won a number of business awards over the years for local professional services, allied health and runner up for Business of The Year. I’ve also been able to continue maintaining my clinical face-to-face time whilst growing the memberships and online training side of the business without compromising the clients I see locally.
The biggest successes are every week on the floor. There might be a child with autism and you have five extra eye-contact links between them, or they can do a task for a minute longer. It's these really small improvements in children which are massive for the parents and the teachers that we work with.
From day to day, the success has really come from seeing children being able to do more. I've got about four therapy kids who are going from preschool to kinder next year so, that is really exciting because you develop such bonds with the families when you see them every fortnight over a couple of years.
Those kinds of clinical successes shouldn't be overlooked.
What has been your biggest mistake in business?
DH: When I was in the growth stage of business, I was outsourcing a lot of the accounts and bookkeeping. And the bookkeeper just was not up to date with the accounts and they got months behind. I've changed bookkeepers since then and now we have them reconciled by the 10th every month.
When you're in that growth phase, there's just so many things to think about, but for me that was a failure that I learned from and now I support other therapists to make sure they have their accounts up to date.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
DH: Choose your key income stream and get that profitable before adding additional income streams.
Any plans for 2022 in the business?
DH: I’m launching a parent membership program called LifeSkills4Parents. Under OTs are assistants called allied health assistants and there’s no professional body or support program out there so, we are launching the AHA Academy or ‘AHA’ to give them the clinical "A-ha" moments and help them be supported in a professional environment that’s just for them.